Big Tech &
Reddit experiments with livesteaming (1 minute read)
Over the weekend, Reddit users started speculating what the cryptic messages on a new subreddit, /r/pan, could mean. It has now been revealed that /r/pan is a subreddit where users can post live stream videos. The Public Access Network subreddit is a weeklong experiment to test out Reddit's live-streaming features. There are strict rules for the subreddit. It is limited to 100 concurrent streams of 30 minutes each, and the content is monitored so that NSFW, dangerous or illegal activity, and 'quarantine eligible' content will be shut down. The streams are rear-facing camera by default to discourage selfie streams. Users will be able to upvote or downvote streams just like normal threads on Reddit.
Facebook and Twitter uncover Chinese trolls spreading doubts about Hong Kong protests (2 minute read)
Facebook and Twitter have discovered a network of accounts believed to have been operated by the Chinese government. The accounts were created to sow political discord around the protests taking place in Hong Kong and have now been suspended. There were 936 accounts on Twitter and seven pages, three groups, and five accounts on Facebook. One of the pages had 15,500 followers and at least one of the groups had 2,200 members. Facebook and Twitter are forbidden in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong. Protests broke out in Hong Kong earlier this summer as citizens opposed a Chinese bill that would allow people living in the special administrative region to be extradited to China for trial. The protests have escalated in recent weeks. Twitter has been criticized for accepting ads from Chinese state media, but it has now stated that it will no longer accept advertising from state-controlled media entities. State-backed media accounts will still be free to continue to use Twitter without advertising abilities.
Artificial tree promises to suck up as much air pollution as a small forest (2 minute read)
A Mexican startup called Biomitech has developed an artificial tree that it claims is capable of processing the same amount of air pollution as 368 living trees. Unlike trees, Biourban doesn't require many years to grow. The 14-foot metal tree uses microalgae that pulls carbon dioxide and other contaminants from the air, releasing pure oxygen as a byproduct. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 7 million people die from exposure to air pollution each year. Each artificial tree costs around $50,000 to construct, which might prevent the technology from spreading to areas where it is needed most. Another project from a German firm, Green City Solutions, uses vertically installed squares of moss cultures to achieve similar results.
Chinese scientists turn sand into soil (1 minute video)
Chinese scientists have invented a paste made of plant cellulose that helps sand retain water, nutrients, and air, transforming sand into soil that can grow crops. The paste is non-toxic, environmentally friendly, cheap, and suitable for mass production. A section of the Ulan Buh Desert in Inner Mongolia has been turned into arable land using this method, allowing farmers to grow crops in the desert.
Programming, Design & Data Science
React NodeGUI (GitHub Repo)
chart.xkcd (GitHub Repo)
chart.xkcd is a chart library that creates sketchy, cartoony, or hand-drawn styled charts, similar to the style in the xkcd webcomic series. All that is required to run it is to include the script in your page along with an svg node to render the chart.
CROKAGE: A New Way to Search Stack Overflow (7 minute read)
Stack Overflow has accumulated a lot of knowledge over time, with more than 18 million questions and 27 million answers in its database. Developers often use the site to find solutions to their particular issues. Often, developers will find the relevant code without an explanation on how to implement it, or they find an excellent explanation of how to fix the issue without the actual code. Stack Overflow has released CROKAGE, the Crowd Knowledge Answer Generator, which takes a question and provides relevant, comprehensive programming solutions with both code snippets and explanations. CROKAGE started as an investigation of duplicates in Stack Overflow, which then turned into a research project on how to search the site in a way which will return complete solutions. The service is available now, but it is currently limited to Java queries. An expanded version will be released to the public soon.